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Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia


Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), or acute lymphoblastic leukemia, is cancer of the blood cells. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell (WBC). A person who has ALL makes more lymphocytes than his body needs. The abnormal lymphocytes are called lymphoblasts (leukemia cells). Lymphoblasts do not fight infection like normal WBCs. They crowd the bone marrow and prevent normal blood cells from growing. This increases your risk for infection, bleeding, and anemia (low number of red blood cells).


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


You may need to rest in bed. You may be allowed to get out of bed once you are feeling better. Call a healthcare provider before you get up for the first time. If you feel weak or dizzy, sit or lie down right away. Then call a healthcare provider.


It is important that you get good nutrition when you have cancer. Eat a variety of healthy foods. Eating healthy foods may help you feel better and have more energy. If you have trouble swallowing, you may be given foods that are soft or in liquid form. Ask your caregiver about any extra nutrition you may need, such as nutrition shakes or vitamins. Tell your caregiver if you have problems eating, or if you are getting sick to your stomach.

Reverse isolation:

You may be put on reverse isolation safety measures if your body is having a hard time fighting infections. You are given a private room to protect you from other people's germs. Caregivers and visitors may wear gloves, a face mask, or a gown to keep their germs away from you. Everyone should wash their hands when entering and leaving your room.

Long-term IV catheter:

You may get an IV catheter placed into a large vein in your body. It is usually placed in your arm or chest. You may have this IV catheter for several months. You and your healthcare provider will decide which catheter is right for you. Once you get your IV catheter, your healthcare provider will begin your chemotherapy medicine.

Blood transfusion:

You will get whole or parts of blood through an IV during a transfusion. Blood is tested for diseases, such as hepatitis and HIV, to be sure it is safe.


  • Antibiotics help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Antifungal medicine helps kill fungus that causes illness.
  • Antinausea medicine may be given to calm your stomach and prevent vomiting.
  • Pain medicine may be given. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.


  • Blood tests may be done to help healthcare providers learn what type of ALL you have so they can plan your treatment. Your healthcare provider may check your lymphoblasts (immature WBCs or leukemia cells). They may also check for damaged or abnormal chromosomes in your blood cells.
  • A bone marrow biopsy is a procedure to take a sample of bone marrow to be tested. Bone marrow is tissue inside the bone.
  • An x-ray is used to check lung and heart function or to find signs of infection or tumors.
  • A lymph node biopsy is a procedure to remove lymph node tissue to be tested. Lymph nodes are part of your immune system and help your body fight illness. Healthcare providers may use a needle to take a sample from a lymph node, or remove a lymph node during surgery.
  • A lumbar puncture is a procedure to remove fluid from around your spinal cord to be tested. Treatment may also be given.


  • Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells. Your healthcare provider may give you 2 or more kinds of chemotherapy.
  • Radiation shrinks tumors and kills cancer cells with x-rays or gamma rays. It may be given alone or with chemotherapy to treat cancer.
  • A transplant may be part of your postremission treatment. Bone marrow or stem cells are put in your blood through an IV. The stem cells go to your bone marrow and begin to make new blood cells.
  • An umbilical cord blood transplant is a procedure to put donated umbilical cord blood in your blood. Umbilical cord blood has many stem cells in it.


You may have pain, discomfort, or fatigue from treatment. Even with treatment, ALL may not go away, or it may return.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.